My husband and I were blessed that our wedding day was truly a day of our dreams.
Seeing photos, people have reached out to ask for suggestions on planning their own elopements. My advice for an elopement, or any kind of wedding, is the same as my advice for general life living:
Life is like a tapestry. Sparse, sparkling threads of awe and reverence make it sparkle in the light. These threads, woven together with the day to day woolen-spun happenings that connect them.
The difference for me between feeling lost in the world and feeling purposefully woven in, lies in noticing the sparkly threads—those moments of quiet connection with the heartbeat of the Universe—as they appear.
My earliest memory of a “sparkly-thread” moment is when I was six years old.
My family lived in the house my parents built, way out in the country. Looking back, the distance was maybe 10 miles from town, but when you’re smaller, the scale of distance distorts. It could have been an ocean away from other kids, playdates, or parks. Our home sat on top of seven wooded acres: rolling hills bursting with ancient oak trees, wild blackberries, gurgling streams, and mysterious wild animal bones. My mother parented with the original Montessori method: “Go outside and play. I’ll call you when it’s time for dinner.”
The playing never really felt like play. My childhood games weren’t barbies, dolls, or tag. Instead, I created secret fairy gardens out of moss and acorns. I cared for all the tiny creatures I could find; housing insects in jars and following frogs around for hours. It all felt so urgent. Care for the Earth. Explore. Create.
My greatest fear, in those days, were the always-looming “wolves.” I put the word in quotes, because they existed only in my mind. Illinois had no proof of wolves, let alone a real threat to children playing in the yard. But still, I was certain that it was the wolves who had eaten the animals, whose bones I found every so often, imposters between moss covered peat and nestled in with decaying leaves. Of course, when you’re six years old, the defense against wolves which don’t exist is a walking stick. I found my favorite stick while visiting my grandparents in Arkansas, and that stick made it back to Illinois with me to protect me from whatever wolves were stalking.
One day while out collecting materials for a fort, I noticed a downed tree. The tree was massive and the stump on its side was difficult to climb. My walking stick and I mounted the decaying grandmother, and set out to walk to her end. Once we got there, a feeling of accomplishment washed over me. The tree hadn’t been on its side for long. I was sure I was the first to have ever stood on her tip—she must have been over a 100 years old. The angle of her fall happened to span a ravine, so standing at her fallen peak, I had a bird’s-eye view of the sunset over the rolling hills. The light had just reached what I now as an adult call “golden hour,” but then as a child just called “magic time.” Leaves glowed copper, gold flashed off the winding brook, and I was struck with complete stillness.
The moment was imprinted on me, and I am sure it somehow built my still growing bones.
Every sense engaged, I felt completely wrapped in beauty, supported by the Earth, and infinite in the drop of a moment.
This sparkly-thread moment built me. So, at the age of 29 and newly engaged, I found myself reflecting. I wanted to get married. I was completely attracted to this man, a physician with a penchant for adventure, cats, and jazz music. But how to recreate that moment of my childhood—that feeling of knowing and magic—within a ceremony?
Step 1: Explore.
I started looking through photographers’ websites, and employed Instagram and Pinterest, using key search words hashtags such as #bohemianwedding and #outdoorwedding. This seems unsexy to retell. I wish that I had ventured into the forest again until I was struck with clarity, but truly my clarity came from flipping through online portfolios. I thought that if I just kept searching, I’d stumble upon the photos of somebody else’s ceremony who felt like my husband and I. Some sort of muse on which I could build, because the wedding planning section of the bookstore carried nothing useful for me. This worked.
When I found our photographers’ website, the elegantly understated mood and nature-centered ceremonies just clicked in with what we wanted for our own ceremony. Yes. A bit more digging, and I learned that these were elopement photographers. Ruh roh. Not only would they capture our intimate ceremony within the States, but they’d travel with us to whichever destination we chose.
Step 2: Panic.
When life suddenly hands you a box filled with all your wildest dreams: a soul mate who is all in for an intimate and unconventional ceremony, and photographers-slash-wedding planners who are at the ready to book a flight to wherever you drop the pin…well, how on Earth to take the first step?
Step 3: Focus.
My husband and I made a list, a sometimes painstaking list, of what we valued in a wedding ceremony. I wanted to feel held by the Earth as we said our vows. He wanted to be near a raging ocean. We both wanted charcuterie and wine to follow, and—most importantly—we both wanted to feel free. We knew Faroe Islands were the perfect fit as soon as we saw the photos. We loved that this place was both nurturing, lush, and green, and also wild, savage wind, and sea. An off-the-radar travel destination, it seemed like a place which would hold our secret moments in a way that was more trustworthy than a popular tourist destination.
Step 4: Do the thing.
With the help of Lisa and Alex, our photographers and now friends, we built out a five-day itinerary. As plans do, it all fell apart once our luggage was lost, and the weather was unpredictably treacherous. But you know, how perfect. We chose these islands because of their unpredictability, and they did not disappoint.
So, in the end, we arrived in Faroe with only our one suitcase of wedding clothes, which my husband had uncharacteristically gone to bat with a flight attendant to keep at our feet whilst the rest of our luggage was left in Canada.
Then, we rolled with the quickly changing weather patterns. We were high in the northern hemisphere during summer, which meant that each day had about 20 hours of sunlight. We used each one. When there was stillness, we ventured out to cover as much of that beautiful place as we could. We stopped for nothing, which often meant eating only when we realized it was deceptively 11 p.m. and the only option for the day was nachos from the local pub, even though it was still daylight out.
The day we’d originally planned as our wedding day turned out to be a day of wind and rain whipping. Actually, I’m still not sure whether what we felt was rain or just the wind picking up the ocean and waterfalls and dumping them back onto the island. I swear at one point, I actually saw a waterfall flowing upward. But the following day, around noon, everything became still, and the ocean whispered “now.” We called the photographers from the bedroom of our little Airbnb and told them “This is the day. We are going to go get groceries for the picnic.”
That grocery trip turned out to be the most dear memory of our wedding day. Walking through a local Faroese grocery, we took our time choosing picnic items for the first meal we would eat as husband and wife. We diligently selected the most delicious cured meat, brightest berries, creamiest cheese, and a pack of locally-dried fish just for character. On the way out, we passed the florist table and one bouquet caught my eye. I’d not planned on having flowers (who needs the hassle) but here they were. The most perfect looking bunch I’d ever seen. My husband scooped them up, and the moment of pure magic—that sparkly-thread moment—locked in.
Seeing him standing there, red tinted beard, kind eyes, sleep deprived from travel, and holding our grocery basket in one arm and my wedding flowers in the other, that was the sparkly-thread moment of my wedding day.
Time stood still, which is such a cliché saying until it happens and there’s no other way to describe it. I was struck with complete and utter knowing in that moment, and gratitude, that in the same way we were rolling with the changes and building our wedding day, that was exactly how we would continue to build our life. That was it. I told him “I am so happy. I love you,” gave him a kiss, then we proceeded to check out and have the most gosh dang amazing elopement that I could have dreamed.
Looking back, the photos are beautiful, the scenery was spectacular, and our vows to each other were exactly as awkward, loving, and heartfelt as we could have ever dreamed. And still, the moment for me that stands out in magic—that sparkly-thread moment—was that glimpse of my handsome soon-to-be-husband in the grocery store, doing life with me.
My reflection on weddings and lifetimes:
Make the plans. Of course! This is fun. It’s adventurous, and makes for a heck of a better story than most of the quiet moments of meaning.
But then, in between the plans, eyes wide awake—pay attention.
On the wedding days and every days, may we notice the sparkly-thread moments as they come, unannounced, and reassuring that “hey, we’re here, and we’re part of your tapestry.”